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Ensuring safe Wisdom of the Crowds

1 September 2014
Ella Antes

No, you're not mistaken. Not just Wisdom of the Crowds, rather the Safe Wisdom of the Crowd.

A book written in 2004 by James Surowiecki explains that in some situations, the Wisdom of the Crowds is larger than that of the expert. According to this principle, the crowd as an entity has intelligence. The larger the group, the larger its collective intelligence grows and even surpasses that of the singular expert.  So, is it safe to say that the crowds are right? Is it safe to rely on the Wisdom of the Crowds? I would think twice before doing so.


Surowiecki has thoroughly examined the different factors that undermine the Wisdom of the crowds and some situation from "wise" to "dumb".


Apparently, if the crowd is diverse and as such its members hold various opinions there is a higher chance that the Wisdom of the Crowds principle will be relevant. Yet if the members of the crowd are influenced similarly (e.g. by external information or peer pressure) the Wisdom of the Crowds principle becomes less relevant and is harmed.


Actually, individuals with independent opinions who are confident in their perception affect the other participants' opinion (some more, some less). This may divert the statistics and the percentage of accuracy of the Wisdom of the Crowds. It is noteworthy to remind that in the original definition of the Wisdom the Crowds these people are neutralized since the process should be conducted in an environment in which three conditions are fulfilled, one of them being unaffected participants.


 For further details concerning the Wisdom of the Crowds and the conditions required for its existence, click here.



In light of all this, how do we implement Safe Wisdom of the Crowds?

Before we allow the participants to voice their opinion/vote, it is recommended to get some information regarding the group's composition: who are the influencers and who are the influenced? Are the people actually diverse and non dependent? This way, we can get a partial conceptualization of the group's composition: confident, less affected, more easily affected etc. Those identified as easily influenced will be ignored when calculating the results thus calculating only the opinions expressed by confident group members.

That's why it's called the Wisdom of the Safe.


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